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Graham v. City of Raleigh

Filed: December 15, 1981.

JOHN GRAHAM, HILL POWELL, A. L. GOODWIN, AND MARK HOLZAPFEL
v.
THE CITY OF RALEIGH, MAMIE T. STEVENS, CHARLES A. STEVENS, JOHN D. LYON, BARBARA H. LYON, AND MAX O. BARBOUR



Appeal by the plaintiffs from Preston, Judge. Judgment entered 27 April 1981 in Superior Court, Wake County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 18 September 1981.

Martin (Robert M.), Judge. Judges Martin (Harry C.) and Becton concur.

Martin

This case involves a declaratory judgment action brought by the plaintiffs to determine the validity of Raleigh City Zoning Ordinance 80 551 ZC 73. It is settled law in North Carolina that such a zoning suit is a proper case for a declaratory judgment, and also that, in such a case, summary judgment may be entered when otherwise proper, upon motion of either plaintiff or defendant. Blades v. City of Raleigh, 280 N.C. 531, 187 S.E.2d 35 (1972).

Here, as plaintiffs set forth in their brief, the material facts are not in issue. The controversy is as to the legal significance of those facts. It is, therefore, a proper case for summary judgment determining the validity of Ordinance (1980) 551ZC73. We hold that the ordinance is valid and affirm the judgment of the superior court so declaring.

Plaintiffs contend the City of Raleigh violated its established zoning procedures in enacting the challenged ordinance. They contend there is no evidence in the record to support a finding by the Council that rezoning Parcel Z-53-80 promotes the health, morals, or welfare of the people of the City of Raleigh required by Raleigh's own procedures. The court may inquire into procedures followed by the board at the hearing before it and determine whether the ordinance was adopted in violation of required

procedures, or is arbitrary and without reasonable basis in view of the established circumstances. Blades v. City of Raleigh, supra.

The procedures established under the General Statutes, Raleigh City Charter, and Raleigh City Code provide the basis for a legislative, rather than a judicial determination on the part of the City Council. Zoning petitioners are not required to offer evidence nor is the legislative body required to make findings that the requested rezoning promotes the health, morals, or general welfare of the people of Raleigh. A zoning ordinance will be declared invalid only where the record demonstrates that it has no foundation in reason and bears no substantial relation to the public health, the public morals, the public safety or the public welfare in its proper sense. Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365, 71 L. Ed. 303, 47 S. Ct. 114 (1926); In re Appeal of Parker, 214 N.C. 51, 197 S.E. 706 (1938). It is not required that an amendment to the zoning ordinance in question accomplish or contribute specifically to the accomplishment of all of the purposes specified in the enabling act. It is sufficient that the legislative body of the city had reasonable grounds upon which to conclude that one or more of those purposes would be accomplished or aided by the amending ordinance. The legislative body is charged with the primary duty and responsibility of determining whether its action is in the interest of the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare. Schloss v. Jamison, 262 N.C. 108, 136 S.E.2d 691 (1964). When the action of the legislative body is reviewed by the courts, the latter are not free to substitute their opinion for that of the legislative body so long as there is some plausible basis for the conclusion reached by that body. Zopfi v. City of Wilmington, 273 N.C. 430, 160 S.E.2d 325 (1968).

A duly adopted zoning ordinance is presumed to be valid. The burden is on the complaining party to show it to be invalid.

TWhen the most that can be said against such ordinances is that whether it was an unreasonable, arbitrary or unequal exercise of power is fairly debatable, the courts will not interfere. In such circumstances the settled rule seems to be that the court will not substitute its judgment for that of the legislative body charged with the primary duty and responsibility of determining whether its action is in the interest of the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare. (Citations omitted.)

In re Appeal of Parker, supra at 55, 197 S.E. 709.

Evidence adduced at the public hearings and minutes of the Council and its committees sufficiently document that the following considerations were before the Council and formed the ...


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